Indian Look-Alike




Melanie Yazzie, Navajo/Diné, United States


  • United States

Object Info

This object may or may not be on view currently.

Melanie Yazzie, Navajo/Diné, United States


Height: 29 in. Width: 22.5 in.

Gift of Melanie Yazzie and Clark Barker, 2007.4155

Photograph © Denver Art Museum 2012. All Rights Reserved.


  • paper
  • print


About the Artist

Born in 1966, Melanie Yazzie grew up on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Arizona State University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in printmaking at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she is now an associate professor of art. Yazzie works in a variety of media including printmaking, painting, sculpture, installation art, and ceramics, and has led several collaborative international projects with artists in New Zealand, Siberia, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Germany, and Japan.

Yazzie’s artwork explores themes of childhood memories, travel and transformation, the role of women in Navajo culture, post-colonial dilemmas, and her personal health. “The work I make is about my personal experience as a Navajo woman in today’s society,” she says.

What Inspired It

The overall concept of this piece was inspired by Yazzie’s work with the community and her efforts to educate students about Native American stereotypes. She was shocked when she went to speak to a school class and saw that the children were given a worksheet with stereotypical images of Indians under the same prompt that appears at the top of her print:

Circle the Indians in each row that look the same. Color the pictures.

“I looked at [the worksheet] and thought I do not look like these [nor does] anyone I have ever known. I decided to take the art project and make one of my own, inserting my own childhood image,” Yazzie explains.

The Title and Prompt
The Title and Prompt

The title of the print and the instructions at the top are exactly the same as those on the worksheet that was given to the elementary school children.

Childhood Image
Childhood Image

The image of Yazzie as a girl doesn’t resemble the cartoonish Indians at all. By inserting her image into each row, Yazzie makes it obvious which “Indians” look the same and makes the point that Native Americans are individuals, not types.

Background Color and Pattern
Background Color and Pattern

According to Yazzie, the background color and pattern resemble a turquoise stone. Turquoise plays a large role in Navajo religious ceremonies and is prominent in Navajo jewelry. It is thought to promote healing and good luck.

Teaching Resources

Melanie Yazzie talks about how printmaking influences her paintings.

Melanie Yazzie talks about not experiencing blocks in her creative process.

Students learn Melanie Yazzie's artistic process of creating monotypes.

Native American history in Colorado is explored through the interviews of representatives from several tribes native to the region.

Melanie Yazzie talks about how her process hopes to achieve a subtle layering of color.

Funding for object education resources provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.

The images on this page are intended for classroom use only and may not be reproduced for other reasons without the permission of the Denver Art Museum. This object may not currently be on display at the museum.